On Monday, Rockets were fired at Kabul’s airport where US troops were racing to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan and evacuate allies under the threat of ISIS group attacks.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the early morning attack, saying rock ‘soldiers of the Caliphate targeted Kabul International Airport with six Katyusha ets.’
Major General William ‘Hank’ Taylor at a Pentagon briefing said that five rockets were fired out of which three had landed off the airfield with no effect, one was intercepted by an anti-missile system, while the other landed with no effect to the mission or any danger to our personnel.
President Joe Biden has set a deadline of Tuesday to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan, drawing to a close his nation’s longest military conflict, which began in retaliation for the September 11 attacks.
Mr Biden said on Saturday that the situation on the ground remained extremely dangerous, and that his military chiefs had told him another militant attack was highly likely within the next 24 to 36 hours.
On Sunday, American forces launched a drone strike in Kabul targeting a suicide bomber in a vehicle who was aiming to attack the airport.
The return of the Islamist Taliban movement triggered an exodus of terrified people aboard US-led evacuation flights.
Those flights, which have taken more than 120,000 people out of Kabul airport, will officially end on Tuesday when the last of the thousands of American troops pull out.
The ISIS group pose the biggest threat to the withdrawal after carrying out a suicide bomb attack at the perimeter of the airport late last week that claimed more than 100 lives, including those of 13 US troops.
Biden had warned more attacks were highly likely and the United States said it carried out an air strike on Sunday night in Kabul on an ISIS-prepared car bomb. That was followed on Monday morning by rockets being fired at the airport.
“We know that they [ISIS-K] would like to lob a rocket in there, if they could. Now we actually have pretty good protection against that. We have our anti-rocket and mortar system,” General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, told reporters in Washington last week.
The White House confirmed that there had been a rocket attack directed at the airport, but said operations there were ‘uninterrupted’.
The White House statement mentioned that the President reconfirmed his order about commanders to prioritize their doings to protect the forces_. “The President… has reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritize doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground,”_ they stated.
An AFP photographer on Monday took images of a destroyed car with a launcher system still visible in the back seat. A suspected US drone strike had hit the car, about two kilometers from the airport.
A Taliban official at the scene said that he believed five rockets had been fired and all were destroyed by the airport’s missile defence systems.
“Since the Americans have taken control of the airport, we can’t sleep properly. It is either gun firing, rockets, sirens or sounds of huge planes that disturb us. And now that they are being directly targeted, it can put our lives in danger, Abdullah, who lives near the airport, told AFP.
The United States said that the air strike on Sunday night on the car bomb had eliminated another threat from the ISIS jihadists. However, it may have also killed civilians. “We are aware of reports of civilian casualties following our strike on a vehicle in Kabul today. We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life,” Captain Bill Urban, a US Central Command spokesman, said in a statement.
On Saturday, Taliban fighters escorted a steady stream of Afghans from buses to the main passenger terminal, handing them over to US forces for evacuation.
The Taliban have promised a softer brand of rule compared with their first stint in power, which the US military ended because the group gave sanctuary to Al-Qaeda.
Western allies have warned many thousands of at-risk Afghans have not been able to get on the evacuation flights.
On Sunday, the Taliban revealed their supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada was in southern Afghanistan and planning to make a public appearance. “He is present in Kandahar. He has been living there from the very beginning,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.